Downregulation of DNA repair proteins and increased DNA damage in hypoxic colon cancer cells is a therapeutically exploitable vulnerability.

PMID 29156796


Surgical removal of colorectal cancer (CRC) liver metastases generates areas of tissue hypoxia. Hypoxia imposes a stem-like phenotype on residual tumor cells and promotes tumor recurrence. Moreover, in primary CRC, gene expression signatures reflecting hypoxia and a stem-like phenotype are highly expressed in the aggressive Consensus Molecular Subtype 4 (CMS4). Therapeutic strategies eliminating hypoxic stem-like cells may limit recurrence following resection of primary tumors or metastases. Here we show that expression of DNA repair genes is strongly suppressed in CMS4 and inversely correlated with hypoxia-inducible factor-1 alpha (HIF1α) and HIF-2α co-expression signatures. Tumors with high expression of HIF signatures and low expression of repair proteins showed the worst survival. In human tumors, expression of the repair proteins RAD51, KU70 and RIF1 was strongly suppressed in hypoxic peri-necrotic tumor areas. Experimentally induced hypoxia in patient derived colonospheres